Aside from the obvious main attraction of the Old Town, Dubrovnik, there are plenty of other worthwhile destinations to visit if you have enough time, all of which are within an hour's drive of Dubrovnik.
Ston & Mali Ston
View of Ston looking down from the city walls
View of Ston looking down from the city walls
Take a scenic coastal drive to the small towns of Ston and Mali Ston located south of the Pelješac peninsula and just under an hour away from Dubrovnik (approx. 50km). Less known than Dubrovnik with far fewer tourists, this area is famous for three main things: oysters, salt and the impressive medieval city walls extending up to 5.5km in length making it the longest defensive fortress system in Europe that was built to defend the city and its salt pans. Park your car at the town of Ston where you can also visit a number of shops and choose from a selection of cafes and restaurants to dine in before making your way to the city walls. Here you can go up and walk along the whole length of the city walls to Mali Ston. From here you can either turn around and walk back along the walls or take the quicker option; descend and walk back along the main road. From the top of the walls you can observe amazing views of the mountains, salt pans and bay of Mali Ston with its stunning clear blue waters. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear for the climb (there are many steps) and bring plenty of water with you as it can get very hot and there is little to no shelter. Listen out for nightingales singing in the trees surrounding the wall and keep an eye out for huge violet carpenter bees and butterflies including the spectacular swallowtail foraging on the wildflowers. Being less touristy than the nearby Dubrovnik, we barely saw any other people on our walk. Our visit to Ston was a real highlight of our trip to Croatia.
Beautiful clear, blue water at Mali Ston, Croatia
Only a half hour drive from Dubrovnik lies the harbour and coastal town of Cavtat. Like Dubrovnik, it is quite touristy with multiple restaurants, bars and hotels but is a lot quieter and peaceful. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade with a ice cream, relax on the beaches, rent a kayak or visit the museums. This is a great place to visit if you just want to relax, unwind and soak up the scenery.
Promenade, Cavtat, Croatia
Visit this agricultural region to the south of Dubrovnik, just before the border with Montenegro to enjoy beautiful scenery and delicious food. We didn't spend much time here other than driving through on route to Montenegro. However, we did stop at a small restaurant, which was recommended in our guide book and was, without doubt, the best meal of the holiday! Konoba Koraceva Kuca is a small, family-run restaurant specialising in traditional Dalmatian cuisine. It is situated just off of the main road in the village of Gruda with an outdoor terrace that gives stunning views of the fields, vineyards and mountains of Bosnia. Make sure to book a table in advance and sit outside to enjoy the sunset over these mountains. The staff were very friendly and attentive, even offering customers to take a tour of their kitchen to show how their meats are slow-cooked. In addition, they serve a delicious aperitif; a homemade, pomegranate liqueur which we enjoyed so much that they even brought us a second helping!
Fountain at Trsteno Arboretum King's Landing gardens, Trsteno Arboretum
The botanical gardens form another famous Game of Thrones filming location (King's Landing gardens where Lady Olenna speaks with Sansa about Joffrey, but more on the various GoT filming locations in a later blog post). It's not a huge place so only an hour or so is really needed here and is best done in combination with another trip out; I don't think it would be worthwhile to visit on its own unless you really love botanical gardens (we visited on our way back from Ston). The gardens contain a diversity of plants from all over the world including a huge 500 year old plane tree. Another highlight of the arboretum is an 18th century fountain overlooked by a statue of Neptune flanked by two nymphs. Also, from the arboretum you can take a wander down to the coast where you can find the GoT filming location for where Bronn and Jaime train.
Day trips to Bosnia & Montenegro
Since Dubrovnik is so close to the borders with Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, why not take a day trip to both of these countries and add some more stamps to your passports. Like Croatia, both countries have beautifully stunning landscapes, culture and history with many attractions to visit that are quite near to the border. As we hired a car for the week, we took a short road trip to Mostar and Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia on one day and a road trip to Kotor, Montenegro, on another day. Just make sure you inform your rental car company so that you are covered under their insurance when you leave the Croatian border. There will be separate blog posts with further details on visiting each of these countries shortly.
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